In 2013, my life was about to change dramatically. It was wintertime. Snowy. I was walking my dogs through Shubie Park and they had the zoomies, running through the woods. One let out a horrid cry and my heart stopped. As I ran towards the woods, both my dogs came out but Sammie was holding her hind left leg in the air, I desperately said “your ok, your ok”….. I think I had been talking to myself. She couldn’t weight bear at all. A tall man came by, walking his lab and asked if she was ok. When he could see the situation, he picked her up and carried her back to my car, with his lab and my red retriever in suit.
Sammie had torn her CCL that day. A year later she tore the second one. I took her to a local rehab vet and learned that physical therapists could take additional training to work on animals. What?!? I had been working in health promotion at the time, but in a few months time I would apply to go back to school to become a physical therapist and then go on to take advanced training in canine rehabilitation through the Animal Rehab Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
While finishing school, my retriever was his usually happy go lucky self (they’re such happy dogs, he would later teach me some life lessons around this…) but Sammie seemed to have something going on in her hind end and I noticed she was scuffing her toenails. The original diagnosis was arthritis in her spine but later another vet thought it was something else. Degenerative myelopathy, aka DM. At the time, I didn’t know much a bout the disease except that it was a progressive disease of the spine, similar to ALS.
I remember being on my first canine rehab course in the wintertime in Ontario. On this particular day it was snowing. During one of the sessions, a couple came in with a thin, 14yo Rhodesian Ridgeback in a blue cart, with one of her rear legs in a stirrup. She had DM. I remember standing and taking video of the dog when suddenly I was overwhelmed with emotion. I stoped recording, walked outside, no jacket and stood in the middle of the parking lot. Tears rolled down my face. I had just realized my girl’s potential future and I was going to everything I could to keep her strong, mobile and living the good life
Two Years Later
I can thank my beloved Mr Reg for giving me the courage to make canine rehab my main thing. Reggie’s wisdom has shown me that there is always more than what meets the eye to any situation, and that I need to embrace life with love, gratitude and enthusiastic selfless service. He helped me realize that pet parents and their fur kids are my people and that I wouldn’t be happy until I fully embraced that.
And here we are today, 2019. A lot has changed and a lot of growth has happened. Both my fur kids have taught me some supreme lessons about life and the importance of living every day to the fullest, to trust my instincts and to never give up. Let’s be honest, I’m still figuring a lot of this out. But, I believe whole heartedly that I was put on this planet to learn from our four legged friends and to help pet parents help their dogs, in some capacity. If you are reading this right now, then I already know how much you love and want the best for your dog and that we were meant to connect.
As a physiotherapist, trained in collaborative practice for the best client outcome, I believe that every pet parent should be informed of ALL options for care for their dogs, to be able to access the best care for their dogs for the specific condition, and to be empowered to make informed decisions.
One of the challenges with this most pet parents don’t know that CANINE REHABILITATION for musculoskeletal and neurological conditions can be performed by licensed physical therapists, with specialized training in canine rehabilitation, in many places in the world. I want to help change this knowledge gap for two simple reasons:
The first is personal – to honour my dogs and all they have taught me.
The second is about you – canine rehabilitation has added years to my dog’s lives and I believe with all my heart that every pet parent should be able to utilize movement as medicine, under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist, trained in canine rehabilitation, for the betterment and longevity of their dog. Together, we can help our dogs lead long, active, healthy and happy lives!
Thank you, Sarah, Sammie and Reggie